Your Top Three: Movies That Every Graduate Must See

Your Top Three: Movies That Every Graduate Must See

Jun 23, 2014

Your Top Three is a series here at where we choose a topic and you give us your top three picks.

Another school year is over, and another class of students is walking the field in cap and gown. Depending on where you live, the diplomas may already be in hand a month already. So, there's no time to waste. These young men and women need advice as they hit the real world, and as always there's no better source for such guidance as the movies. 

The most obvious title might seem to be The Graduate, but that's almost 50 years old. In some ways it's timeless, but it certainly doesn't reflect the world today, at least not for most people. Even Reality Bites feels so dated now after only 20 years. Really, it's probably best to look at some very recent documentaries for relevance, though most of those are likely to make you depressed.

Of course there may be different movies for different kinds of graduates heading into different directions. High school grads may want to watch The Social Network and be influenced to skip higher education and go straight for Silicon Valley. It's a whole other world out there, and maybe even some young men just want to be househusbands, so Mr. Mom might be best for them. 

It's not easy to choose three movies that could be of universal interest to all graduates, but I've made the attempt below. 

My top three movies that all graduates must see:

1. Office Space - No matter what kind of job you take out of school, there's a good chance you're going to have coworkers and bosses that make you feel like you're in some hidden camera setup for a sitcom-inspired reality series. This 15-year-old comedy from Mike Judge is only slightly antiquated, yet the basics continue to be true in all sorts of workplace settings, even if you don't deal with worthless forms or sit in a cubicle or have to wear flair on your restaurant uniform. I've never known someone who couldn't identify with at least part of this movie, and I know a lot of people with nontraditional jobs.

2. Big - The irony of this movie's workplace situations is that 26 years later, "grown-up" Josh doesn't seem that abnormal in any of it. There are jokes about how he's really just a kid and so he goes to work at a toy company and is perfect for the gig due to his being a little immature and that he spends all his paycheck on video games and trampolines. And the part about him really being a kid isn't that significant. But he was one of the first movie man-children at a time when his behavior wasn't typical for a person of his size. When I think of people getting their first job out of school now, though, especially if it's a really good one, I picture parts in Big where he's shocked by his paycheck and thrilled to be an adult who can now do anything he wants. Then I think of his gradual maturing through the movie, and that's a process that graduates today can take slow, as well. 

3. Badlands - This movie doesn't have much to do with graduating or working. In fact, Martin Sheen's character is a high school dropout and Sissy Spacek's becomes one by running away with him. Sure, there's some blue-collar stuff that might not be applicable today anyway, but my reason for including the 1973 Terrence Malick film is that it features some terrific advice for people entering the real world -- never mind that it's given by an antisocial criminal; he doesn't seem to follow it. "Consider the minority opinion," he says. "But try to get along with the majority of opinion once it's accepted." Graduate or not, you'll get by okay on that, adapting as you go.


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